Given the bloody nature of Henry VII
's ascension (he took the throne by force at the Battle of Bosworth
), a rising from Richard III
's Yorkist followers was almost inevitable.
Unfortunately, there was no Yorkist descendent available, and so the Yorkists began to seek suitable candidates to impersonate the two Yorkist princes who were captive in the tower. Lambert Simnel was such a pretender.
Oxford was a traditionally Yorkist area, and so it is little surprise that the first pretender should come from this place. In the winter of 1486, rumours began to circulate about the fate of the captive Earl of Warwick. He had not been seen for some time, and some feared him dead. In this climate of uneasyness, a priest in Oxford noted a resemblance between one of his pupils, Lambert Simnel, and the feared murdered sons of Edward IV.
Deciding Simnel should impersonate the Earl of Warwick, the priest took the child to Ireland, a center of Yorkist support since Richard of York had been Lord Lieutenant there in the 1450s. The present Lord Lieutenent and other Irish leaders embraced Simnel and proclaimed him Edward VI in Dublin. Margaret of Burgundy, Edward IV's sister, sent 2,500 professional German soldiers to Ireland to back up Simnel. This formidable support led to the Irish crowning Simnel King Edward VI in Dublin in 1487.
Henry became aware of the conspiracy in the new year of 1487. In february a few lesser nobles were declared traitors and Edward IV's queen, Elizabeth Woodville, was placed under house arrest on unknown charges. The real Earl of Warwick was exhibited in London to show he wasn't dead, but the situation was not so easily resolved.
On 4 June 1487 the rebels landed at Furniss in Lancashire. The King was prepared and the two armies met outside Stoke on 16 June. The rebels numbered around 8,000 and the King's forces around 12,000. The immediate assault of the professional German soldiers and the Irish beserkers strained the royal front line, but after three hours the rebels were surrounded and defeated.
Simnel was captured, and recognizing that he was but a pawn in the hands of the Yorkists, Henry made him a worker in the palace kitchens. He was later promoted to the position of King's falconer for good behaviour!
Many historians view the Battle of Stoke as the last of Wars of the Roses. Henry would never again face an army composed of his own subjects on English soil.
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